Three electoral board hearings. Two separate legal controversies. Five names. All over one question – who gets to be on the ballot for mayor of Evanston?
Everyone, according to the Evanston electoral board. But such a simple answer did not come easily. Evanston’s April elections might fly under the radar for Northwestern students, but just take a quick spin back through the drama surrounding the candidates – it gets a lot more interesting.
First of all, here are the five candidates:
- Gary Gaspard, full-time faculty advisor at Northeastern Illinois University and former Evanston Township supervisor
- Steve Hagerty, president of Hagerty Consulting
- Brian Miller, Ninth Ward alderman
- Mark Tendam, Sixth Ward alderman
- Jeff Smith, attorney at law
Ready? Let’s go.
The controversy began in November of 2016 with Evanston City Clerk Rodney Greene. He originally set the filing period for the Evanston mayoral election as December 12-19, in accordance with Illinois law for April general elections.
However, Brian Miller (see above) surprised Green by filing to run in November. When Green told Miller that he was filing too early, Miller cited a 1992 Evanston referendum stating if more than two mayoral candidates file for election, a primary must be held. Illinois law requires that candidates who wish to be on the ballot for February primaries mst file by November 28.
Illinois law also requires that if more than four candidates file for an election, a primary must be held. Therefore, two separate laws required Evanston to hold a February primary.
Since no candidate wants to be left out of an election, Gary Gaspard, Steve Hagerty and Mark Tendam all scrambled to file before the November deadline. Green announced that he would also accept filings during the original December period.
Then, on December 14, a supporter of Miller filed objections to strike Hagerty, Gaspard and Tendam, stating that their signature sheets did not specify that they were candidates in the February primary election and instead referred to the April general election.
At the time, there were only four candidates. If the petition were successful, Miller would have been the only mayoral candidate listed on the ballot. However, the Evanston electoral board unanimously rejected the objections to Hagerty and Gaspard. The objection to Tendam was withdrawn before the hearing. Everything appeared to move ahead as normal.
On December 19, Jeff Smith filed to run for mayor as the fifth candidate in the race. On December 27, he filed objections to strike Hagerty, Gaspard, Tendam and Miller. If successful, he would have been the only candidate on the ballot.
According to The Daily Northwestern, Smith argued Miller and Tendam hadn’t indicated party affiliation on their filing papers, Hagerty filed for a different election and Gaspard filed for a non-existent election. Gaspard also took issue with Evanston’s 1992 referendum requiring a primary, arguing that since he filed as an independant he should not have to face the other four candidates in it. Smith has not decided on pursuing further legal action.
Once again, the Evanston electoral board unanimously rejected all objections. After the contentious and convoluted process, Evanston voters can expect to choose between five candidates at the primary election on February 28. The general will follow on April 4.
All versed in the drama and ready to take part? Find your closest polling place here.